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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why nothing will change in India even after Mumbai terrorist attack?


Post November 26: Will there be any change in India or a major shift in the manner we tackle terrorism?

I have serious doubts. The intense public anger has forced Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil to submit their resignations and Vilas Rao Deshmukh may also resign, but this is not enough.

In a few days from now, it will be back to square one. There are reasons for this pessimism and why I believe nothing is going to change:

1. As long as there are two laws in India, one for the VIP and the other for the common man, nothing will change. The concept of treating people differently on the basis of their clout, connections and class shouldn't have any place in democracy but unfortunately it is the biggest roadblock towards equality in this country.

2. There are different sets of rules for a VIP, an English-speaking citizen and a poor ordinary man. The person in the first category can pass through any security check without the risk of getting touched. The second guy also has a fair chance of escaping any frisking. The person in the last category receives contempt but he can also make his way past, by greasing the palm of the cops. How many politicians or even journalists like to be frisked?

3. The Indian police are still governed by the outdated Indian Police Act of 1861 that treats the citizens as natives and expects the force to protect and serve the 'masters', who were Whites in the past and the class of politicians (and top bureaucrats) now. If your vehicle has a beacon light, which constable can dare stop it? When Mayawati goes out on the streets of Lucknow, there are over a 100 policemen with her and the entire area is cordoned off.

4. The system of policing is such that most of the force is involved in security of the VIPs and taking care of their families and kin. The policeman with a graduate or post-graduate degree loses all self-esteem when he understands that he has to get the grocery and vegetables for his superior's household, serve water to guests at police station and he doesn't care if a kid goes missing but would go to any lengths to find out an officer or bureaucrat's dog that has disappeared.

5. Intelligence agencies and units in states are mostly busy in working for the government to get information about opposition party leaders and finding the latter's weaknesses or election related surveys. Cops are made to do duties which they ought not do.

This leaves them disinterested in their regular work. They are made to stand up for political rallies, demonstrations and other silly things. This is a pan-Indian problem. How and when can they investigate or get intelligence input. Whatever little interest remains in the job is due to the lure of money from criminals, those dealing in illegal trades and the 'hafta'.

6. Supreme Court stepped in when the politicians refused to implement police reforms. But despite all its efforts, no state government in India, either the Congress or the BJP, is interested in it. Politicians want the power of transferring any cop to anywhere in the state, in their hands.

7. The irony is that during the entire debate over the failure of police, intelligence and government, it was not the issue that was raised properly at the debates on televisions. There will be chargers, counter-charges and a few resignations but what about the real issue?

8. Abusing politicians is easy. But politicians are misled by bureaucrats. Why there is no accountability on them? The bureaucrat--the IAS and the IPS, work for their entire lives and are supposed to know much more about security aspects than the politicians. We are yet to see any resignations from security agencies or sacking of any top officer.

8. At least, IPS officers get the blame. They also fight on the ground and lose their lives. But what about the IAS officers, those who really run the nation. Politician is the face but the IAS officer is the guy who remains in charge.

He briefs the minister about issues, tells him about contents of voluminous files and runs the entire show. He has to be accountable but he never figures anywhere when there is a failure or disaster.

9. Somehow, the IAS officers in the last 60 years, have managed to increase their clout and power but also got rid of all responsibility though it is effectively the district magistrate who is in-charge of any district or City.

10. Ever heard any clamour of his resignation due to non-performance? Though it is a fact that a corrupt IAS officer earns much more money than a normal politician can ever dream of in his lifetime. Why there was no counter-terrorism system in place in other metros until now. Isn't it a policy failure? What for the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Home Affairs taking their salaries if they didn't think of posting NSGs in four metropolitan cities.

In a few weeks there will again be political rhetoric. BJP will raise the issue of Afzal's hanging and POTA while Congress will take up the issue of Kandahar hijack and Parliament attack. People will be watching soap operas on TV. The parliamentary elections aren't far.

Who is interested in tackling serious issues like police reforms? Announcements like a fresh anti-terror federal agency may sound good momentarily but when the entire system is wrecked, which government has the time, energe, interest and resolve to do it?

Once again nothing might change. Though I wish I am proved wrong.